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Compare student loans for community college

Find private lenders you might qualify with — on top of federal aid available.

One of the perks of going to community college is that it costs a lot less than other schools. If you need help covering expenses, you might want to consider your other financial aid options first to see if you can get away without borrowing at all. Otherwise, consider a lender that works with your college — some require you to attend a partner institution or Title IV school to qualify.
Name Product Loan amount APR Loan Term
College Ave undergraduate student loans
Starting at $1,000
0.94% to 12.99%
5 to 15 years
Rates start at 2.84% for residents of all 50 states.
Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan for Undergraduates
Starting at $1,000
1.87% to 11.97%
5 to 15 years
Choose from over 8 different options for undergraduates, law students and more.
SoFi Student Loans
Starting at $5,000
1.89% to 11.98% with autopay
5 to 15 years
Undergraduate financing with no late fees to US citizens with good credit.

Compare up to 4 providers

What types of student loans can I get for community college?

You can get both federal and private student loans to pay for most community colleges. If you’re eligible, most lenders recommend that you apply for federal student loans first. They’re generally the least expensive, easier to qualify for on your own and come with more flexible repayment options.

When to consider a private student loan

However, you might not be eligible for federal loans if your community college isn’t a Title IV institution. In that case, you might have to look into private student loans. These are often slightly more expensive than federal loans and can have fewer repayment options.

Many also have income and credit requirements you might not be able to meet without a cosigner. And some lenders require you to attend a partner school, so yours might not be eligible with all lenders.

Can I get a student loan if I’m not in a degree-granting program?

Generally, no. For federal loans and most private lenders, you must be enrolled in an eligible degree-granting program to qualify.

You can find financing for degree programs shorter than four years like associate degrees. However, non-degree students typically have to pay out of pocket, as most other types of financial aid are also unavailable to them.

How to apply for student loans for community college in 5 steps

Need help covering the cost of community college? Follow these steps to get started:

Step 1: Fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application for federal loans. It also allows you to apply for other types of aid like work-study and federal grants, if you can qualify.

When you’re ready, you can use our step-by-step guide to filling out the FAFSA, which shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes if you have all of the information on hand.

Step 2: Research scholarships and grants

Before accepting federal loans or applying with a private lender, look into scholarships and grants you might be eligible for. Start with your school’s financial aid office — they can tell you about in-school opportunities and where to start your search with outside organizations.

If you’ve been a strong student, scholarships might be the way to go — they’re typically based on merit. Grants are generally based on need and determined by your finances and financial aid package.

Step 3: Review your financial aid award

Your school should send you a financial aid award letter detailing how much is covered with scholarships and grants, how much is covered with federal loans and work-study, and how much you need to pay out of pocket. If you think you should have been offered more aid, you can send a financial aid appeal letter asking the school to reconsider your package.

Once that’s settled, subtract any additional scholarships and grants from your award, as well as any funds you can pay out of pocket. If there’s a remaining balance, you might want to apply for private loans.

Step 4: Compare private loans, if needed

Start your search for a lender by making sure you and your school are eligible. You might have to fill out a quick online form or call customer service to find out if your school qualifies.

To find the best loan for you, compare rates, loan terms, repayment plans and cosigner options. If you can’t afford to make full repayments while in school, try to find a lender that offers reduced or deferred repayments until six months after you leave your program.

Step 5: Apply for private loans

Once you’ve found a lender, double-check you’re eligible and gather any documents and information you need to complete the application.

How to get started

You can often apply online, though many also allow you to apply over the phone. If you found a lender on this page, click the Go to site button to get started. Otherwise, follow the directions online.

Typically, applications only take a few minutes to complete. You should hear back from a representative in a day or two with instructions on how to submit documents and provide additional information, if needed.

What happens next

After you submit your application, the lender usually verifies the cost of attendance (COA) with your school before sending you the loan documents. Once you sign them, the funds should go directly to your school. You can pick up a student loan refund check from the bursar’s office if there are any funds left over after tuition and fees are covered.

What to watch out for when borrowing for community college

Here are a few things to look out for when taking out student loans to pay for community college:

  • School eligibility. If you don’t go to a Title IV school, it might be hard to find financing for your degree.
  • Program eligibility. Trying to earn a few credits on a budget without enrolling in a degree program? You probably won’t be able to qualify for a student loan.
  • Borrowing without considering other aid. Cut down on your costs by applying for scholarships and grants through your school and outside organizations first.

Should I go to community college?

Not sure if community college is right for you? Weigh the benefits and drawbacks to help you decide.

Benefits of community college

  • Save on the cost. Community colleges are typically more affordable than other schools — including in-state public universities.
  • More attention. These schools typically have smaller class sizes, meaning you might be able to get more attention in subjects you’re struggling with.
  • Get a fresh start. If you slacked off in high school or just want a higher GPA, upping your grades in community college for a year or two can help you get into a better school and qualify for more scholarships.

Drawbacks of community college

  • Limited degrees and resources. Community colleges typically don’t offer as many degree programs or have the state-of-the-art libraries, labs and extracurriculars available at more expensive schools.
  • Less prestigious. Community college sometimes doesn’t look as good on grad school or job applications as a more competitive school.
  • Lack of campus life. You might miss out on the more traditional social side of college if you attend one of these institutions.

Bottom line

Community college students are often eligible for most of the student loans available at other schools — as long as you’re attending a Title IV or nonprofit institution. And since these are generally low-cost schools, you might be able to get away with borrowing less — or not at all — if you qualify for scholarships and grants as well.

You can learn more about how paying for college works with our guide to student loans.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get a student loan for community college with bad credit?

Yes. Federal loans don’t have any minimum credit score requirements. And while most private lenders require good credit, you can often apply with a cosigner to meet that criteria.

Can I use FAFSA money for community college?

It depends on the school, but many community colleges are eligible for federal student aid, which is what you’re applying for when you fill out the FAFSA.

When should I apply?

The Department of Education recommends that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st of the year before you need funding. You might want to apply for private student loans as soon as they’re available, typically around May or June before the school year begins.

Can I attend both a community college and a four-year university to earn my degree?

Yes, many community colleges and four-year schools have partnered together to offer college 2+2 programs. Essentially, you attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a partner university to complete your bachelor’s degree. You can learn more with our guide to college 2+2 programs.

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